New fiscal showdown building over next debt limit battle…guess we never saw that coming, did we?

Republican lawmakers insisted Sunday that any increase in the nation’s borrowing authority should have policy changes attached, a demand at odds with White House officials and Senate Democrats, who held firm in their position that Congress must pass a “clean” debt-limit increase.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said it was “irresponsible” and “unreasonable” for President Barack Obama to call on Congress to raise the debt ceiling without being open to policy changes.

White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer countered that Republicans should “spare the country the drama” of another fiscal showdown like the one that led to a government shutdown in October.

“The American people should not have to pay the Republicans in Congress’ ransom for doing their most basic function, which is paying the bills,” Mr. Pfeiffer said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Democrats and Republicans girding for another political fight over increasing the nation’s debt limit do not have a lot of time to debate the issue. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, in a letter to Congress last week, said the U.S. government would exhaust its borrowing powers by late February without action by Congress.

The White House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly said they are not open to negotiating with Republicans on policy changes in return for increasing the debt ceiling. Mr. Pfeiffer confirmed that position Sunday and was echoed by top Democratic leaders.

“We don’t want to risk the full faith and credit. We can debate all of these other issues at a different time and place,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Republicans lawmakers have already begun to consider what policy riders they could attach to a debt-ceiling increase to force negotiations. House Republicans leaders are mulling a number of discrete policy changes, including some to the 2010 health-care law, as their opening gambit in negotiations with Democrats. A decision on how to proceed is likely to come after a House GOP retreat in Maryland at the end of this week.

“It’s worth noting, in the past the debt ceiling has been the most effective lever point for structural reform,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said on “Face the Nation,” insisting that “we shouldn’t just write a blank check.”

How far Republican leaders will push the issue remains an open question. Democrats are quick to point out that Republicans shouldered much of the blame for October’s government shutdown, while GOP leaders are wary of distracting voters’ attention away from the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

“We should not play Russian roulette with America’s economy,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

[by Michael R. Crittenden and Pedro Da Costa, writing for The Washington Wire]

NORM ‘n’ AL Note: Seems to us that the real “Russian roulette game” in Washington is to keep increasing the country’s debt limit without having any idea where the money is going to come from (“guess we’ll just have to keep the money printer running at top speed a little longer”) to pay it AND without even trying to find ways to cut expenses by an amount at least equal to the debt increase. When you have no plan whatsoever to reduce the debt you already have, does it make any sense at all to add more debt to the load?


As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis


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